JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Swinging night sticks and wooden clubs, riot police on Sunday broke up a group of about 50 anti-apartheid protesters who defied a government ban by holding a political rally at a Johannesburg university campus. Several people were reported injured.
The police, who were also armed with shotguns and semiautomatic rifles, had earlier erected roadblocks around the campus at the University of Witwatersrand, preventing hundreds of other activists from attending.
Witnesses said dozens of police charged onto the campus and began beating the protesters, some of whom tried to flee into nearby buildings for refuge.
"Blood was streaming from the head of one of the people who was hit by the police. They gave them no warning," said one foreign diplomat, who witnessed the beatings. About 20 people were arrested.
The rally, called by the Mass Democratic Movement, was organized as part of a campaign against apartheid and to challenge the government in the weeks before the Sept. 6 parliamentary elections, which exclude the black majority.
The government banned the rally Saturday under the government's sweeping emergency laws aimed at crushing black opposition.
In Cape Town on Sunday, members of the United Democratic Front and seven other banned anti-apartheid groups unfurled their banners at a cathedral and declared they would defy the government by operating openly again.
Organizers of the rally had obtained a last-minute Supreme Court order forbidding police from interfering.
Anglican Archbishop Desmond M. Tutu led the multiracial congregation of 2,500 in chanting, "No to apartheid, no to injustice, no to oppression and no to racism!"
The government is cracking down hard on the current anti-apartheid campaign. On Saturday, police used rubber whips and batons to beat hundreds of black demonstrators who streamed onto a whites-only beach near Cape Town in violation of laws that bar blacks from some of the country's best seaside resorts.